AHEARTY welcome to you, students! In a previous lesson, we explored the subject and predicate of a sentence. In this lesson, we will focus on the rules of concord. Revising these rules will minimise subject-verb agreement blunders that are sometimes seen in stories and essays.
Subjects and verbs must agree in number. This is the fundamental rule that forms the background of the concept.
1. A singular subject (she, Bill, car) takes a singular verb (is, goes, shines), whereas a plural subject takes a plural verb. Examples: a) Bill is going to the beach. b) Trudy and Jessica love ice cream.
2. Two singular subjects connected by ‘or’, ‘either/or’, or ‘neither/nor’ require a singular verb. Examples: a) My aunt or my uncle plans to go the wedding. b) Neither John nor Patrice is available. c) Either Kiana or Casey is helping today with stage decorations.
3. The verb in an ‘or’, ‘either/or’, or ‘neither/nor’ sentence agrees with the noun or pronoun closer to it. Examples: a) Neither the plates nor the serving bowl goes on that shelf. b) Neither his sister nor his parents enjoy vegetables. c) Either the bears or the tiger has escaped from the zoo.
4. As a general rule, use a plural verb with two or more subjects when they are connected by ‘and’. Example: The man and the woman visit the museum very often. Exceptions: Breaking and entering is against the law. The bed and breakfast was charming.
5. Sometimes the subject is separated from the verb by such words as ‘along with’, ‘as well as’, ‘together with’, ‘besides’, ‘not’, etc. These words and phrases are not part of the subject. Ignore them and use a singular verb when the subject is singular. Examples: a) The politician, along with the newsmen, is expected shortly. b) Excitement, as well as nervousness, is causing her to shake. c) The boss, together with his secretary, is in the office.
6. In sentences beginning with ‘here’ or ‘there’, the true subject follows the verb. Examples: a) There are four books on the shelf. b) There is a man at the gate. c) Here are the cars.
7. Use a singular verb with distances, periods of time, sums of money, etc, when considered as a unit. Examples: a) Five miles is very easy to walk. b) Ten years is the maximum sentence for that crime. c) Ten thousand dollars is too expensive.
8. Some collective nouns, such as family, couple, staff, audience, etc., may take either a singular or a plural verb, depending on their use in the sentence. Examples: a) The staff is in a meeting. (Here the staff acts as a unit.) b) The staff are in disagreement. (Here the staff refers to people as individuals.)
9. The verb is singular if the two subjects separated by and refer to the same person or thing. Example: Red beans and rice is my mom’s favourite dish.
10. Don’t get confused by the words that come between the subject and verb; they do not affect agreement. Example: The dog, who is chewing my shoes, is usually obedient. 11. The singular verb form is usually used for units of measurement or time. Example: Four quarts of oil was required to get the car running.
12. Indefinite pronouns such as: everyone, everything, everybody, nobody, anyone, someone, somebody, something, etc, always attract singular verbs. Examples: Somebody is in Sandy’s truck. Everybody needs affection. Exception: (few, many, several, both, all, some) always take the plural form.
13. When gerunds are used as the subject of a sentence, they take the singular verb form of the verb; but, when they are linked by ‘and’, they take the plural form. Examples: a) Playing in the rain was not a good decision. b) Swimming in the ocean and playing drums are my hobbies.
14. There is a difference between the form of the verb that agrees with the expressions ‘the number of’ and ‘a number of’. When used in a sentence, ‘a number of’ agrees with a plural verb while ‘the number of’ takes a singular verb. Examples: a) The number of cars in the park is amazing. b) A number of balloons are in the sky. Please note the difference. 15. Collective nouns like herd, senate, class, crowd, etc, usually take a singular verb form. Examples: a) The herd is stampeding. b) The class gets noisy if the teacher leaves. 16. Titles of books, movies, novels, etc. are treated as singular and take a singular verb. Example: The Burbs is a movie starring Tom Hanks.
If subject-verb agreement poses a challenge to you, please revise these rules. Remember, the subject and the verb must be in agreement.
I will end this lesson with two activities. Complete them and next week you will be provided with the answers.
ACTIVITY # 1
1. Everyone (has, have) a right to question the speaker on the subject matter.
2. Four dollars an hour (is, are) what the Bennetts pay the babysitter.
3. The boss (want, wants) to employee a new employee for the project.
4. The art gallery downtown (displays, display) amazing paintings.
5. Most of Mark Twain’s books (contains, contain) humour.
6. Each person (is, are) invited to attend the opening ceremony.
7. The guests (seems, seem) to be enjoying themselves.
8. The man with the bird (lives, live) on the street.
9. The rate of murders in the community (is, are) quite disturbing.
10. A number of homeless people (is, are) on the street.
ACTIVITY # 2
The level of crime (has, have) become very alarming and the government (needs, need) to implement measures that will address it. The number of murders that (is, are) committed daily (is, are) unacceptable. If the relevant authorities (fails, fail) to alleviate the cases of crime that (occurs, occur) the country’s image will be affected. Answers to last week’s synonym activity: B,A, D, C, A, C, D, B, C, A We will meet again next week.